Lt. Col. Phillip Jenison
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
As the world’s premier land force, our Army relies on the safe conduct of vehicle operations to accomplish missions of every magnitude. From combat operations to routine motor pool functions in garrison, drivers and vehicle crews provide critical support to the force. Accidents in Army Motor Vehicles and Army Combat Vehicles, however, have historically been a leading cause of on-duty Soldier deaths.
The good news is that on-duty vehicle fatalities are at all-time lows. This is a promising trend, especially as we continue transitioning to a peacetime, garrison-based posture. We still are facing some enduring challenges, though, specifically in regard to driver training. Recent inspections and assessments have revealed several deficiencies in driver training and standardization programs across the Army. It is imperative we address these conditions now before AMV and ACV mishaps have an opportunity to spike, needlessly killing Soldiers in the process.
Overall, many — if not most — unit driver training programs are in need of significant attention. Confusion over leader responsibilities, driver requirements, and standards enforcement, coupled with high OPTEMPO, outdated guidance and incompatibilities between software tracking systems, have created an environment where driver training priorities have steadily slipped below the collective radar.
Stemming from these core shortcomings, driver interview and selection is also inadequate across much of the force; training records are overwhelmingly inaccurate or, in some cases, outright falsified in a staggering percentage of units; sustainment and NVD training, along with check ride requirements, is insufficient in most locations; and many driver fatigue management programs are substandard due to OPTEMPO and personnel shortages. While there are no easy answers to any of these issues, we believe leader engagement and empowered master drivers are key to solving several predominant problems.
The task of a master driver isn’t easy. In most instances, master driver duties are collateral, meaning the Soldier in that slot has his or her primary duty, then obligations as the master driver, and likely numerous additional duties on top of those. Driver training programs undoubtedly suffer when master drivers are spread this thin.
Therefore, command team and leader involvement is critical in allowing master drivers to fully perform their responsibilities. Driver training is not a high-visibility program, but it provides a safe foundation for “money makers” like training center rotations and deployments. No leader wants the scrutiny a fatal accident will bring, but we can help prevent such tragedies by strengthening existing programs and making driver training a top priority.
For more information on Army vehicle safety and a full complement of driver training resources, visit https://safety.army.mil/ON-DUTY/GovernmentMotorVehicle.aspx